Paradise Lost Book 3 Summary and Analysis
by John Milton

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Book 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
God: creator of Heaven, the new world (Earth), and a new race called Man

The Son: sits on the right hand of God, the Father; volunteers to go down to Earth and give his life as a ransom for Man’s sins

Uriel: the angel of the sun; one of seven archangels who stands ready at God’s command

The poet opens Book III with an invocation to “holy Light,” the essence of God. “Since God is light,” it has coexisted with him eternally and flows from His very being. This light, the poet says, was the first thing to appear in God’s creation, emanating from him as the “offspring of Heaven first-born.” The poet has come out of utter darkness (Hell), passed through middle darkness (Chaos), and has now reached the safe environs of God’s holy light. The poet is blind, however, and must depend solely on his inner vision for divine inspiration. He invokes the muse of Sion and visits the Scriptures nightly for spiritual enlightenment. In his blindness, he compares his fate to that of Thamyris Homer (Maeonides), Tiresias, and Phineus and wishes to equal them in fame also. Since his blindness has cut him off from the book of “Nature’s works,” he asks that the divine light of inspiration grant him inner eyes that he might see and tell things that are invisible to other mortals.

The “Almighty Father” sits on his throne in Heaven with his Son on his right hand and a myriad of angels gathered around him as “thick as stars.” From above, he views his entire creation at a glance and watches Adam and Eve in their happy state in Eden. As his eyes survey Hell and Chaos, he detects the figure of Satan who is preparing to land on God’s newly created world. God perceives Satan’s need for “desperate revenge” and predicts that Satan’s lies to Man will cause him to transgress. He has these feelings with his Son. Breaking God’s command and his pledge of obedience, Man and his progeny will fall through nobody’s fault but their own since they have been given free will. All created beings were given free choice, God says, and cannot justly accuse their Maker of a predestined fate that has governed their condition.

Even though God possesses the foreknowledge of Man’s fall and all other future events, he does not foreordain those events but allows freedom of choice to all created beings. The fallen angels erred by their own suggestion, God says, and will not be given grace. On the other hand, Man will be granted mercy and justice since his fall will be brought about by the deception of Satan.

As God speaks, an “ambrosial fragrance” wafts through the air, and the angels are filled with a new joy. The Son’s face shines with a light of divine compassion, reflecting the love and grace of God, his Father.

The Son praises God’s compassion for Man whose fall, “though joined/ With his own folly,” will be artfully maneuvered by the fraudulent Satan. God is a wise judge, the Son says, who will not allow Satan, their Adversary, to draw the whole race of mankind into Hell with him and, thereby, thwart God’s purpose.

God commends the Son for reflecting his Father’s thoughts and assures him that Man will not be lost but will be given grace. He will be saved if he chooses, yet he will owe his deliverance to God who will place an “umpire Conscience” within the race of Man, warning them of their sinful state. This will be a reminder to them that they must pray, repent, and show obedience to God. Those who harden their hearts with neglect and scorn will be excluded from God’s mercy.

There can be no justice, however, unless someone is willing to pay the ultimate price, his life as a ransom for Man’s sins. God calls for a volunteer, but the heavenly choir stands mute. Out of the silence the Son of God speaks, offering to go down to Earth and die for the sake of Man. The Son has the assurance that he will not stay in the grave but will “rise victorious” and conquer his enemy, Death. He promises to bind...

(The entire section is 2,687 words.)